This week has been a hard one, though, if we’re honest with ourselves, there have been so many hard weeks for the last few hundred years for African-Americans. There have been multiple deaths of African-Americans at the hand of law enforcement, those sworn to protect all American citizens (not some). And George Floyd’s death is another reminder that, no matter how far we’ve come, we’ve still got many miles to go before we can be at peace with our country and each other.
In the midst of this, US President Donald Trump has, unfortunately, done nothing to bring the country together. Just a few days ago, the President said that the death of George Floyd was “tragic” and “should never have happened.” If you know Trump by now, you know that, unfortunately, these words are scripted and don’t honestly mean much. The President has always been honest in his tweets, however. A new tweet released by Republican activist and MAGA doctrine author Charlie Kirk challenges the existence of white privilege.
“If “White Privilege” existed, why did Elizabeth Warren have to lie about being a Native American to get ahead in life?” Kirk posted at Twitter. Unfortunately, Trump retweeted the tweet from Kirk on his own account, showing his approval of the question. In other words, the president of the most divided country on earth at this moment does not believe white privilege exists.
Trump’s tweet denies the reality of white privilege: a look at the numbers
Such a claim (the retweet) casts doubt on Trump’s apology for the death of George Floyd. What does he think George Floyd died of, if white privilege isn’t a systemic and systematic problem that contributed to it? The police officer and the victim also knew each other and had worked at the same club previously. The victim was supposedly arrested for a counterfeit $20 bill, though there’s no evidence the bill was counterfeit or that Floyd committed any crime in giving money to someone.
If George Floyd didn’t die of white privilege (since we’re assuming for argument’s sake that white privilege doesn’t exist), the young man still died of police brutality. That alone is tragic enough. But even in police brutality, it’s a known fact that police brutality is the #1 leading cause of death for African-American men in the United States. In fact, African-American men are 2.5 times more likely than their Caucasian counterparts to be killed by police brutality.
When one considers that Caucasians are the majority of US citizens, it just screams racial injustice. Even in North Carolina, Floyd’s birth state, Caucasians currently comprise 78% of the state’s citizenry, according to current Governor Roy Cooper. That means that only 22% of the state’s makeup is African-American. As early as 2015, another study discovered that African-Americans make up 29% of the population in South Carolina, yet comprise 43% of police shooting victims.
Some who deny the existence of white privilege say that African-Americans are becoming more of the victim than their racial counterparts because they’re more prone to crime and trouble, but that simply isn’t true. A number of African-Americans are law-abiding citizens, paying their taxes, obeying traffic laws, working jobs, and living their lives responsibly. They’re not out on the streets leading a life of crime, yet they’re still pulled over by police, forced out of their cars, and handcuffed unjustly.
So when Trump retweets someone questioning the existence of white privilege, he’s doing so as someone who is ill-informed of the issue that even the numbers support.
Trump’s tweet denies Elizabeth Warren’s Native American ancestry
Not only does Trump’s retweet deny white privilege, it also denies Elizabeth Warren’s ancestry. Her DNA says that she does possess some Native American ancestry. And yet, Native Americans retain sovereignty over declaring someone a part of their membership. Official Native American tribes, such as the Cherokee, for example, do not rely on DNA. Official tribes mandate documentation to prove one’s Native American ancestry: that is, interested persons must prove they’re related to official, card-carrying tribal members. As I’ve said before, Elizabeth Warren’s Caucasian complexion doesn’t eliminate the possibility of her Native American racial ancestry. One can be Native American regardless of complexion.
Without documentation, DNA doesn’t gain a person entry into an official tribe. Most DNA kits out there can tell you that you’re Native American. They can tell you if you’re “Native North American” or “Native South American,” for example, but cannot pinpoint an exact tribe of origin. So, you could be Native American and apply for status into the Federal Cherokee Indian tribe, yet have Blackfoot Indian ancestry. There’s simply no way to tell from most DNA tests what tribe you come from. So you can understand why just saying, “I’m Native American and I think I’m Cherokee” isn’t enough.
And yet, make no mistake, Elizabeth Warren is Native American. It goes without saying that individuals with Native American ancestry that appears in their ancestral analysis have DNA that was passed down to them from family members. The fact is that recent DNA is passed down, so Elizabeth Warren has Native Americans in her family. So with that said, she is of mixed ancestry.
The assumption of white privilege: why Elizabeth Warren mentions her Native American ancestry
Donald Trump’s retweet of a post mocking Elizabeth Warren’s Native American ancestry shows that he 1) doesn’t understand the disproportionate police shootings in this country, which are sadly, against African-Americans despite their smaller numbers as compared to the Caucasian population. Next, 2) Trump’s retweet shows that he doesn’t understand how DNA works, nor does he understand how official Native American tribes operate. Just because a person doesn’t have an official affiliation with a federal tribe doesn’t mean they’re not Native American. It just means that they have no right to claim it officially. But DNA doesn’t lie, and if the DNA says that Warren is Native American, then she is.
But, the worst part of it all is that Trump doesn’t understand how white privilege works. Elizabeth Warren’s claim to be Native American is important because, despite how out of step it may be with official Native American tribal enrollment rules, it was done to show Native American minorities in this country that Warren is one of them. What Trump doesn’t understand is that white privilege is alive and well. He is an example of that.
White privilege has made minorities such as Natives and African-Americans distrust Caucasian politicians because Caucasians appeal to minorities with the goal of winning votes. That’s usually how minorities see Caucasians: they’re playing nice to secure votes to help them win said election. There has been a huge trail throughout American history of political newcomers playing up their ancestry or catering to certain bases in speeches designed to win elections rather than tackle the struggles of minorities.
So when a Caucasian politician plays nice with minorities, the first instinct a minority has is, “What does he or she want? Why are they being nice to me?” They immediately tighten up and turn uncomfortable because apart from political wins, Caucasians don’t really identify with the plight of Native Americans and African-Americans. White privilege makes minorities distrust white politicians. Elizabeth Warren’s mention of her Native American ancestry was designed to let minorities know that she can be trusted because she isn’t just white. She’s not just European, German, Irish, Scottish, English, and Welsh — all the typical white countries Caucasians discover in their DNA ancestry test results.
That’s not to say that African-Americans haven’t had President Obama in the White House, and that Obama isn’t African-American, but it’s to say that Native Americans, who were here before Africans, were disenfranchised too because of white colonial settlers. It’s to say that Native Americans are also part of the disenfranchised minority in this country — yet few pay attention to their plight. I applaud those leading the current George Floyd protests because they mentioned the Native Americans and what white privilege did to them when white settlers came to this country.
And, even if African-Americans have had one president, it shows that white privilege is alive and well, for, if it wasn’t, African-Americans wouldn’t have to count the “one” president that looks Just. Like. Them! Caucasians don’t count the number of Caucasian presidents they’ve had in this country because there have been so many. So many! They don’t have to hunt for the Caucasians that have played leadership roles in this country because they are everywhere.
They have never been barred from performing on-stage in the 1950s as African-Americans were. They have never been barred from performing as artists in the music industry, as African-Americans had been at one time. Caucasians have never had to sit at the back of restaurants or, rather, get their food out the back door because they were barred from sitting in restaurants. Caucasians have never had their pale skin be a limit to their potential or a “black mark” against their success. But African-Americans know discrimination all across the board, in every field.
So, when Elizabeth Warren lays claim to her Native American ancestry, she does so to send a signal to Natives that “I’m one of you. I’m on your side because I too am Native. I will fight for your interests because you are my people. I’m proud to identify with you and stand with you against racial injustice.” Showing her Native American ancestry was a sign of solidarity, despite overstepping official tribal rules and procedure. While we can fault Elizabeth Warren for her “misstep,” let’s look at how much bigger her heart was to identify with those who are considered to be “lesser” in society because of the color of their skin and way of life. There are few strictly Caucasian politicians that I’ve seen do that in the history of the American political system — especially in the last 30 years.
We all know that if Trump had a smidgen of Jewish ancestry, for example, he would’ve played it up to evangelicals as another reason to vote for him in November 2020. He’s in no position to criticize Elizabeth Warren. Additionally, his decision to continue making fun of her shows how insensitive he is to the need to understand those who are of a different racial category than he is. And former VP Joe Biden will use this to his advantage to deal Trump a stunning defeat in November.
The other day, Trump said in a speech that he was sorry about the death of George Floyd, that “it should never have happened.” And yet, here he is again at Twitter, poking fun at Elizabeth Warren, whom he’s called “Pocahontas” in days past, while mocking her ancestry. He says one thing in scripted speeches but does something entirely different at Twitter.
Twitter truth is real, folks. And Twitter is Donald Trump’s platform. It’s where he gets to be himself. He retweeted the question about white privilege because he doesn’t believe it exists. Sure, he might believe Floyd died of police brutality, but he assumes that the policemen who killed him (whether directly or aiding and abetting) did so out of excessive force. In his mind, they didn’t kill George Floyd because he was black and they “can’t stand black people.”
And, as sad as it is, the African-American community, me included, shouldn’t be surprised. How can we expect anything better from a President who’s already said that “laziness is a trait in blacks. It really is, I believe that. It’s not anything they can control”?